Geoscience course details

The Greene’s Geoscience diploma course content comprises of six compulsory modules, two optional modules, at least three field trips and a number of local visits and external lectures.

The compulsory modules are:

Module 1: Organisms in context

TopicSummary of contentParticipants should be able to:
Biological classification of organismsHow organisms are classified
Linnean nomenclature
The five main phyla
Develop an understanding of the way that organisms are classified into major groups

Understand the principles of Linnean nomenclature

Be able to recognise the main features of the five main phyla
Organisms and environmentsHow organisms adapt to their environmentAppreciate that different organisms can develop similar features to adapt to a given environment and that this occurs through genetic mutations over time
Evolution and ecosystemsEvolutionary changes; extinction eventsUnderstand that genetic mutations over time can give rise to new species

Appreciate that major environmental changes lead to extinction events and that new species then evolve to fill ecological niches vacant as a result of those changes

Module 2: Earth processes, rocks and mineral formation

TopicSummary of contentParticipants should be able to:
Earth structure & earthquakesEarthquake waves (P, S ) and how these help to identify structure of the earthUnderstand that earthquake waves travel in different ways through the different layers of the earth.
Plate tectonic processesConvection currents in the Mantle, how these relate to types of plate boundary; the rock cycleUnderstand how and why convection currents move in the Mantle and that this movement is expressed at the Earth’s surface through differing tectonic plate movements.
Igneous rocks and how they formThe Rock Cycle; Igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic processed and productsUnderstanding of how the three classes of rocks form; Igneous processes and products and links to plate tectonics; types of magma and how these relate to types of volcanic activity; living with volcanoes.
Introduction to crystallography and mineralogyThe characteristics of the major rock-forming mineral groups, focusing on silicatesAppreciate the different crystal forms, draw and explain examples, and explain how these relate to rock-forming minerals; geometry of crystal forms, where they might form.
Surface processesErosion, transport and deposition; sediments and how they form; types of sediment (biogenic, clastic)Understand surface processes and how these relate to the deposition and occurrence of sediments, and how these later become compacted to form strata.
Sedimentary environmentsHow different environments can be recognised from characteristic features in sediment sequencesRecognition of different sedimentary environments through identifying structures and graphic logs.
Metamorphic processes and productsHow rocks can be altered by heat and/or pressure to form metamorphic rocksUnderstanding how heat and/or pressure can alter rocks which can undergo partial recrystallisation; types of metamorphism.

Module 3: Science and the Environment

TopicSummary of contentParticipants should be able to:
Environmental geologyEnergy resources, including oil and gas, metallic mineral mining; engineering geology; water supplyUnderstanding of how and where sources of water and energy are found and extracted; appreciation of the environmental impact of energy extraction, mining and extraxction of building & construction materials.
Engineering geologyExtraction of building & construction materials; dams & reservoirs; landslips and road construction; tunnelling; coastal erosion & defencesAppreciation of types of building materials, construction and impact on the environment; slope stabilisation techniques and coastal management.
Environmental chemistryIntroduction to chemical
and biochemical phenomena occurring naturally; introduction to atmospheric, aquatic, soil chemistry
Understanding of how chemical processes are impacted by human activity
Environmental geophysicsGeophysics and water, oil and gas exploration; radioactive decay and age-dating of rocksUnderstanding of how resistivity is used to detect rock types (gamma ray); how radioactive decay helps with age-dating of igneous and metamorphic rocks.

Module 4: Fossils and environments

TopicSummary of contentParticipants should be able to:
Formation and preservation of fossilsHow fossils form and the processes involved (petrification; amber; replacement; peat & coal)

Exceptional preservation

Trace fossils.
Understanding of the different types of fossilisation and the processes responsible.

Appreciation that exceptional preservation of fossils can occur and that this gives useful insights into evolutionary changes and “snapshots” of biological communities otherwise only found in fragmentary state.

Recognition of trace fossils as palaeo-environmental indicators and evidence of former organic activity.
Modes of life and fossil assemblages
Introduction to major fossil groups
Life modes of different fossil groups
Introduction to major fossil groups
Appreciation of different ecological niches in continental shelf and deep ocean settings and how marine organisms adapt to these settings.

Recognition of major fossil groups (including trilobites, brachiopods, bivalves, ammonites, microfossils, dinosaurs.
Applications of fossilsAge-dating of rocks and use
in correlating strata (oil & gas exploration); ecostratigraphy e.g. coastal changes; uses in analysis of archaeological sites
Understanding of how different species and assemblages can be used to age-date sediments and the applications of this knowledge.
Physics for geologistsRadiation, radioactive decay and dating of igneous rocks, wireline logging.

Geophysical analysis of reservoirs (water, oil, gas).
Understanding of isotopic decay and formation of daughter atoms, mass spectometry, application of wireline logs

Module 5: Practical techniques and data analysis

TopicSummary of contentParticipants should be able to:
Practical techniques in microscopyLaboratory basedDeveloping the ability to recognise different organic features under the microscope, eg microbes; tissues; microfossils - such as foraminifera; simple preparation of sediments and extraction of microfossils.
Practical techniques in environmental chemistryLaboratory, lecture and problem- solvingDeveloping practical skills in environmental chemistry.
Practical techniques in ecologyField visit to FSC Field
Centre - Dale Fort, west Wales has excellent coastal ecology/ geology and students can sample plankton.
Practical application of theory learnt in tutorials; recognition of ecological zones and geological phenomena such as folding and faulting of strata; recognition of different types of sedimentary rocks and fossils; collection of data.
Statistical analysis of environmental dataFollow-up from data collected at Dale Fort- initially at FSC centre and written up afterwards.Analysis of data collected and application of statistical methods eg Chi-squared; Spearmans Rank and others; developing written communication skills through writing up reports.

Module 6: Independent Research Project

TopicSummary of contentParticipants should be able to:
ProjectTutor assigned to advise and monitor progress.Developing research skills: initial research to identify an area of interest; hypothesis formulation and testing; collection of data and analysis; interpretation and application of findings in the context of previously published research.


Study visits and fieldwork include:

Geoscience diploma - Study visits and fieldwork

Summary of contentParticipants should be able to:
Study visitsVisits proposed to: Oxford Natural History Museum;
Natural History Museum London;
Lapworth Museum Birmingham University (combined with taster lectures- suggested by Birmingham University);
Winchester Science Centre
Participants will be able to see rocks, minerals and fossils discussed in tutorials and via worksheets will be able to identify them.

Hands-on work and study will help to reinforce learning.

Taster lectures will give students a flavour of life at university.
FieldworkFieldwork at classic UK fossil locations (Jurassic Coast, famous quarries around Oxford) and overseas: Oman Ophiolite, and AzoresFieldwork enables students to visualise geological phenomena more easily and see features in their natural settings; as well as providing opportunities for stuents to collect specimens for later processing and analysis (eg microfossils).


Optional modules include:

Geoscience diploma - Additional optional modules

ModuleSummary of contentParticipants should be able to:
Geopolitics of Energy and GovernanceThe impact of oil and gas exploration, production and consumption and attempts to limit emissions (Kyoto Treaty, Paris Accord, etc)Understanding of the environmental impact of coal, oil and gas extraction and uses. International attempts to limit the burning of fossil fuels; political issues involved.
Mineral structure and chemistryMore advanced coverage of
the different mineral groups, focusing on crystal structure and chemistry.
Structure and chemistry of the silicates; chain structures
and relationship to crystal form and characteristics (eg orthosilicates, phyllosilicates, aluminium phosphates, zeolites).

back to: Geoscience course outline